The prisoners are revolting again, folks. After the wave of strikes launched on the 45th anniversary of the Attica Prison riots and the August 19th strikes of this past year, inmates in Florida are planning another strike starting on January 15th, 2018 on Martin Luther King Day. On that day, in what has been dubbed Operation PUSH, inmates across Florida will refuse to do any work until their demands are met.
Their demands are threefold:
- End prison slavery
- End price gouging
- Reinstate parole options
They demand the end to prison slavery in the form of unpaid labor and demand just compensation for all work they do. With prison slavery explicitly written into the very amendment we were always told ended slavery, it is high time we put an end to a practice that was never abolished but rather hidden away behind bars. They demand the end of the of price gouging practiced by prison canteens. In a country where it is known as a staple in poverty diets, there is absolutely no reason that a box of instant ramen should cost upwards of $17, but that’s the situation faced behind bars where everything is provided by monopolistic sources. Partner price gouging with slave labor and it becomes a huge task just to pay for one’s daily needs without outside help. Reinstating parole options for those serving life sentences and Buck Rogers dates, meaning that any hope of parole is unimaginably far off in the future, would go a long way towards both giving hope for freedom to those kidnapped by the police state and relieving some of the problems of mass incarceration and overcrowding.
In addition to these goals, Florida inmates have shown their support for a number of other issues and campaigns including the Say Yes to Second Chances campaign which seeks to restore voting rights to Florida felons. They have also expressed solidarity with movements to combat FDOC brutality which has lead to some of the highest death rates in prison history, to honor the moratorium on state executions, and to expose the environmental conditions faced by inmates including mold, extreme temperatures, and exposure to toxic sites. Currently many are fighting against a proposed phosphate mine which would surround the Reception and Medical Center prison in Lake Butler, Florida, thus subjecting the inmates to potential health risks.
This will not be the last strike nor will Operation PUSH go without challenge. We do not know if their demands will be met or what backlash they will face as a result of their strike but, we can be there now, and in the aftermath to write, share resources, host solidarity protests and actions, and provide whatever help we possibly can from the outside. There is a lot to be done but by working together with our comrades behind bars we can achieve more than we ever thought possible.
Contact the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee of the Industrial Workers of the World to see how you can get involved and help the cause.